Camp Lucky Strike

Can you imagine today having military installations named for cigarettes? The camps for service men going home from Europe were named after cigarette brands and I went to Camp Lucky Strike. The first thing I remember there was a sign, prominently displayed, that in no uncertain terms stated that "personnel being processed through this camp were entitled to have one souvenir pistol in their possession, but only one. Anyone found to have more than one will be court marshaled and given a sentence of six months hard labor in the European Theater of Operations."

There were pyramidal tents pitched on platforms at Camp Lucky Strike and outside each tent was a large hogshead full of water to be used in case of fire. Before we had been in the camp more than an hour or so, these barrels were overflowing and by evening you could clearly see that they were half full of all sorts of side arms.

I contributed a nice Austrian 9 mm pistol, which was shaped much like a 45 and came from Steyre, era WWI and mine were dated 1918 and 1919 if I remember correctly. They were a nice matched pair, but certainly not worth the risk of staying in Europe another six months. The one I kept was on the shelf in a closet for the next 20-30 years until I sold it to a collector. Never did fire it here at home, but got in lots of target shooting while in Austria.

It was December when we left Austria to go to Camp Lucky Strike. The Hungarians who had come through our guard post in the mountains had started returning to Hungary We moved the guard post down from the top of the pass into town because the impending snow that would make travel up the mountain difficult during the winter. I have often thought that I might like to visit that part of Austria again, but have never been enthused enough to go.

I would have no desire to revisit Camp Lucky Strike. Under the floor of the tents the rats grew to cat size and sounded as though they were wearing boots when they tramped around while we were trying to sleep at night. Really nothing to do all day, don't remember being allowed to go into the city and time passed slowly waiting for a ship.

We finally embarked on the Chapel Hill, a cargo ship converted to troop carrier. The hold had been converted into several decks and there were many bunks, 4-5 high, built close together. Not an ocean cruise by any means. I had been on 5 ships before this one, going over to Europe and back and forth across the channel and I had never had any trace of seasickness. Before we got out of the harbor in Marseilles I was on deck hanging over the rail along with, I would guess 80 per cent of the other passengers, sick as a dog. The decks, stairways, halls, heads etc. were covered with slime that first day and it was very hard to get around at all. Heaven help the guys who fell down.

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